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The Weekly Wrap – U.S PMIs and the Coronavirus Drive Risk Aversion

It was quite a week for the markets. The coronavirus spread gathered pace beyond China’s borders, with U.S private sector catching the markets off guard.
Bob Mason

The Stats

It was a busy week on the economic calendar, in the week ending 21st February.

A total of 72 stats were monitored, following the 46 stats in the week prior.

Of the 72 stats, 39 came in ahead forecasts, with 24 economic indicators coming up short of forecast. 9 stats were in line with forecasts in the week.

Looking at the numbers, 27 of the stats reflected an upward trend from previous figures. Of the remaining 45, 36 stats reflected a deterioration from previous.

For the Greenback, it was a particularly bullish week, with risk aversion and positive economic data driving demand for the Dollar. That was the story until Friday when the Dollar hit speed bumps as private sector activity waned.

The Dollar Spot Index rose by 0.21% to 99.337, in the week.

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Out of the U.S

In the 1st half of the week, key stats in the week included manufacturing numbers out of NY State and January wholesale inflation figures.

Any concerns over the impact of the coronavirus on U.S manufacturing sector activity would have eased. The Index jumped from 4.80 to 12.90 in February.

Wholesale inflationary pressures were also on the rise. Core producer prices rose by 0.5% in January, following a 0.1% rise in December. Producer prices also rose by 0.5%, following a 0.1% increase in December.

The focus then shifted to Philly FED Manufacturing and U.S prelim private sector PMI numbers for February.

On Thursday, the Philly FED Manufacturing Index jumped from 17.0 to 36.7 in February. Economists had forecast a fall to 10.0.

Private sector PMIs failed to impress on Friday, however.

The all-important U.S service sector contracted in February. According to prelim February figures, the Services PMI fell from 53.4 to a 76-month low 49.4.

Things were not much better for the manufacturing sector, with the PMI falling from 51.9 to 6-month low 50.8. As a result, the U.S Composite Output Index slumped to a 76-month low 49.6.

Friday’s numbers will have created some uncertainty over the U.S economic outlook that struggled in February. The ISM numbers will be key… Did the FED Chair get it that wrong?

On the monetary policy front, the FOMC meeting minutes from Wednesday had limited impact. FED Chair Powell’s testimony from last week was considered more current.

In the equity markets, the Dow fell by 1.38%, with the S&P500 and NASDAQ down by 1.25% and by 1.59% respectively.

Out of the UK

It was a busy week on the economic calendar.

In the early part of the week, employment and inflation figures provided direction.

In December, average wages plus bonuses rose by 2.9%, easing from 3.2% in November. While wage growth slowed, employment continued to rise at a solid clip in the final quarter. Employment rose by 180k in December, following on from a 208k rise in the 3-months to November.

A 5.5k rise in claimant counts in January suggests that the unemployment rate will hold steady at 3.8%.

On Wednesday, inflationary pressures picked up at the start of the year, with the annual rate of inflation accelerating to 1.8%.

While the stats were skewed to the positive in the 1st half of the week it was not enough to support the Pound, however.

In the 2nd half of the week, retail sales and private sector PMI numbers also impressed.

Core retail sales rose by 1.6% in January, with retail sales rising by 0.9%, the pickup coming in spite of rising consumer prices.

Wrapping things up on Friday, private sector PMI numbers delivered support to the Pound.

The Manufacturing PMI rose from 50.0 to 51.9, while the Services PMI fell from 53.9 to 53.3, leaving the Composite unchanged at 53.3.

Upbeat stats in the week further eased any expectation of a BoE rate cut near-term, leading the Pound back to $1.29 levels.

Outside of the numbers, Brexit chatter was also in focus as France looked to send a strong message of intent across the Channel.

Britain’s chief negotiator David Frost delivered Britain’s goals on Monday, while also stating that signing up to EU standards would defeat the purpose of Brexit. The comments came in response to warnings from the French government as the EU and Britain prepare to begin trade negotiations…

France’s warnings and Britain’s stance suggest a tough time ahead, which left the Pound in the red early in the week.

In the week, the Pound fell by 0.64% to $1.2964, with the FTSE100 ending the week down by 0.07%.

Out of the Eurozone

It was a quiet start to the week economic data front, with economic data limited to economic sentiment figures out of Germany and the Eurozone.

The numbers were skewed to the negative, with investor concerns over the effects of the coronavirus weighing.

The Eurozone’s Economic Sentiment Index fell from 25.6 to 10.4, with the German Sentiment Index falling from 26.7 to 8.7.

In the 2nd half of the week, however, the stats were skewed to the positive.

Consumer confidence seemed unaffected by the spread of the coronavirus. Germany’s GfK Consumer Climate Index fell by 9.9 to 9.8, with the Eurozone’s consumer confidence rising from -8.1 to -6.6.

At the end of the week, prelim private sector PMI numbers were also skewed to the positive.

Manufacturing sector activity picked up in February, with the Eurozone’s PMI hitting a 12-month high.

While the Eurozone’s Composite rose from 51.3 to 51.6, it wasn’t all smooth sailing, with new orders continuing to weigh.

Finalized inflation figures from member states and the ECB monetary policy meeting minutes had a muted impact on the EUR.

For the week, the EUR rose by 0.15% to $1.0847, with a 0.57% rally on Friday reversing losses from the week.

For the European major indexes, it was a bearish week. The DAX30 fell by 1.20% to lead the way, with the CAC40 and the EuroStoxx600 ending the week down by 0.65% and by 0.61% respectively.

Elsewhere

It was a particularly bearish week for the Aussie Dollar and the Kiwi Dollar.

In the week, the Aussie Dollar fell by 1.30% to $0.6627, with the Kiwi Dollar down by 1.38% to $0.6349.

For the Aussie Dollar

It was a relatively quiet week for the Aussie Dollar on the economic data front.

Key stats included 4th quarter wage growth numbers on Wednesday and January employment figures on Friday.

It was a mixed set of numbers, however. Wage growth continued to grow at a tepid pace of 0.5%, with the unemployment rate rising from 5.1% to 5.3%.

There was a 46.2k jump in full-time employment to limit the negative sentiment towards the Aussie Dollar on the day.

On the monetary policy front, the RBA Meeting Minutes added further pressure on the Aussie Dollar on Tuesday.

The rate statement released on 4th February had shown little concern over the likely effects of the coronavirus on the economy.

The minutes, however, sent a different message, with members also considering a rate cut at the meeting. All of this was in spite of the RBA expecting economic activity to pick up in the 2nd half of the year.

With the RBA minutes on the dovish side, risk aversion in the week added pressure on the Aussie Dollar. While numbers out of China showed the spread of the coronavirus slowing, cases elsewhere caused alarm.

For the Kiwi Dollar

It was a particularly quiet start to the week on the economic colander, with no material stats to provide direction.

A likely extended period of soft demand for goods from New Zealand weighed on the Kiwi Dollar in the week.

China’s measures to continue to contain the spread of COVID-19 is expected to weigh on demand for overseas goods.

In the 2nd half of the week, 4th quarter wholesale inflation figures on Thursday did little to support the Kiwi. Input price inflation eased from 0.9% to 0.1% in the 4th quarter. Economists had forecast an easing to 0.4%.

For the Loonie

It was a busy week on the economic calendar. Key stats included January inflation figures on Wednesday and December retail sales figures on Friday.

The numbers were mixed in the week, with a pickup in the annual rate of core inflation providing support mid-week.

Retail sales figures did little to impress, however, with retail sales stalling in December.

While the stats did provide direction, crude oil supply disruption provided support.

The Loonie rose by 0.20% to end the week at C$1.3225 against the Greenback.

For the Japanese Yen

It was a busy week on the data front.

At the start of the week, 4th quarter GDP numbers and finalized industrial production figures caught the markets off-guard on Monday.

In the 4th quarter, the economy shrank by 1.6%. Compared with the 4th quarter of 2018, the economy slumped by 6.3%.

Economic woes were attributed to the sales tax hike, typhoons, and the U.S – China trade war.

Of concern for the BoJ will be the fact that the contraction came before COVID-19 began to spread…

On Wednesday, trade figures were not much better, with Japan’s trade deficit widening from ¥154.6bn to ¥1,312.6bn.

While exports fell by 2.6% year-on-year, the numbers were not as bad as had been anticipated. February figures will give the markets a better idea of what impact the coronavirus has had on the Japanese economy.

At the end of the week, it was weak stats once more, however.

Japan’s Manufacturing PMI fell from 48.8 to 47.6, with the Services Sector PMI falling from 51.0 to 46.7.

Market jitters over the spread of the coronavirus weighed heavily on the Yen. Rising cases in Japan and the region led to the markets seeking safety elsewhere.

Economic data out of Japan suggested that there is more trouble ahead for the Japanese economy. Uncertainty over the coronavirus spread across the region was also a key driver to the Yen’s demise.

The Japanese Yen fell by 1.67% to end the week at ¥111.61 against the U.S Dollar.

Out of China

Economic data was on the lighter side in the week, with key stats limited to new loans for January.

New loans surged by CNY3,340.0bn in January, following a CNY1,140.0bn rise in December.

Outside of the numbers, the PBoC cut loan prime rates on Thursday, though not by the extent that the markets had anticipated.

The PBoC cut 1-year loan prime rates from 4.15% to 4.05%, with the 5-year LPR cut from 4.8% to 4.75%.

While the more modest cuts weighed on the markets on Thursday, updates on the coronavirus provided support. The number of cases in China was in decline in the week, with the number of deaths also falling.

Earlier in the week, fiscal and monetary policy support had given the Yuan a boost before a pullback to CNY7 levels against the Dollar.

The CSI300 rallied by 4.06%, while the Hang Seng slid by 1.82% in the week.

In the week ending 21st February, the Yuan fell by 0.58% to CNY7.0271 against the Greenback.

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